FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — The Minnesota Twins signed Fernando Rodney to be their closer, bringing his 300 career saves to a bullpen that’s needed a boost for several seasons.
In an age when ninth-inning use isn’t necessarily for a team’s best reliever anymore, Addison Reed might have been the more valuable addition.
“There’s no question he wants to find his way into the biggest situations of the game that lead you to your closer,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “He knows it might not always be the eighth inning. He’s more than open to do it. He’s got a nice resume which includes a fair amount of saves, and he’s more than capable, but to hear him talk about how important those things are to him is more than refreshing.”
The last four World Series participants, starting with defending champion Houston last fall, have provided a prime-time snapshot of the importance of having multiple hard throwers capable of commanding high-leverage situations once the starting pitcher is removed. That can start as soon as the fourth or fifth inning now.
“If you look at the boxscore of every game, there’s one or two turning points that could’ve kept the game within reach for the other team. So it’s kind of cool to see what they’re doing,” said Reed, who finished the 2017 season with Boston. “It makes sense. Why would you not want to put your reliever who matches up best with the guys who are coming up to the plate that inning?”
Reed became a closer at age 23 in 2012 with the Chicago White Sox, compiling 101 saves over a three-year span, but he’s settled in more of an eighth-inning role in recent seasons. Special assistant Michael Cuddyer, a teammate of his with the New York Mets, strongly recommended Reed to the Twins front office.
“I can honestly say I would not have signed here if I didn’t think that there was a chance to win,” Reed said. “I’m not trying to go to a team that I can just go have fun with and be done with at the end of the season. I’m trying to make the playoffs, and I want to get a World Series ring.”
The Twins committed more than $23 million guaranteed to Rodney, Reed and left-hander Zach Duke over the winter, targeting their most glaring weakness after reaching the AL wild-card game last season.
“It just gives us a confidence boost to know that you’re not relying on a certain couple guys,” left-hander Taylor Rogers said. “You look at the playoff teams from last year, they all had super bullpens. I think that’s what we have now, which is great.”
Even if the Twins put 13 pitchers on their opening day roster, the offseason acquisitions have made Triple-A the probable April destination for more of their young relievers than not, likely even some who showed some major league moxie last year.
Rogers and Trevor Hildenberger are the surest bets to fill out the bullpen around Rodney, Reed and Duke, with Ryan Pressly also a strong candidate entering his sixth season despite a career-worst 4.70 ERA in 2017. He gave up 23 runs in 27 innings before the All-Star break. That probably only leaves a couple of spots for Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss, Tyler Duffey and Gabriel Moya. Tyler Kinley, a Rule 5 draft pick from Miami, has to make the team or be offered back to the Marlins. Michael Kohn and Jake Reed, neither of them on the 40-man roster, are darkhorse competitors.
The presence of the three veterans, however, was only welcomed by the holdovers. Bringing a combined 35 years of major league experience to the bullpen can only be a good thing.
“I’m excited. It gets a little crowded down there, but everyone knows that you don’t go through a season in the big leagues with eight relievers,” Hildenberger said. “You need 12 or 15. Last year, we had, what, like 30?”
The number was actually 28, so he wasn’t far off.
“Addison, Fernando and I all have a lot of experience,” Duke said. “I think we can make the learning curve shorter for these guys, as far as pressure situations, how to get a job done, how to keep your mind focused on the right things. There are good arms down there. It should be a really good blend.”
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